Last week, we learned about a project at Mission Hill School that challenged kindergartners to use their voices to make a positive difference in their immediate surroundings. This week, we’ll begin to understand the difference first graders can make when their teachers help them spot opportunities to act on the problems they care about.
Visiting Inspired Teaching School for the “Changemaker Days” this past school year was one of my favorite opportunities to see students learning to act on knowledge and empathy to solve problems. During the 2012-2013 school year, Inspired Teaching’s administration challenged the school community to convert their service days into Changemaker Days, which required teachers to transition from defining service projects to guiding students in creating their own. First grade teacher Athena Kopsidas paid close attention to where students showed great curiosity in their academic curriculum so that she could help them to identify particular community problems they could address on Changemaker Days.
As it turned out, Athena’s class was very interested in sustainability and recycling. The first grade science curriculum covered environmental stewardship, and the students quickly noticed a problem in the school: there were no recycling bins. Their parents recycled at home, so why was their school not doing the same? Once the students defined the problem of no recycling program in the school, Athena guided her class in examining the reasons for the problem. The school had just moved into a new building, and the administration was so busy with other priorities that the recycling program had not yet been set up. The first graders wrote a letter to the school principal asking for permission to establish a recycling program, and Athena secured blue recycling bins for the students to distribute throughout the school.
After every classroom in the school was equipped with a recycling bin, Athena’s class checked back in with the other classes to collect data on the use of the recycling bins. This allowed students to reflect on the impact of their work and integrate the first grade math curriculum into their Changemaker Day project.
How does your school encourage first graders to be changemakers? How does it use the academic curriculum to challenge students to solve problems?
We hope to hear from you, and we hope you’ll join us next week to learn about a best practice from a second grade classroom at another Changemaker School!